James Madison University

McClements Recognized by AAS

By: Brett Seekford
Posted: March 19, 2015

Sarah McClements, a doctoral student in the field of audiology at JMU, has been recognized by the American Auditory Society (AAS) for her research along with Dr. Chris Clinard. They have earned a 2015 Travel Award, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, for their Graduate Student Mentored Research Poster.

PHOTO:Sarah  McClements

Interested in the link between the brain and sound, McClements and Clinard wrote an abstract describing their experiment investigating binaural processing (listening with two ears) using behavioral listening tests as well as brain responses from young, normal-hearing listeners. A novel aspect of their experiment is their effort to clarify how an individual’s neural representation of a sound relates to how well they can detect sounds in the presence of background noise.  This research may help explain why older adults, as well as individuals with hearing loss, have difficulty understanding speech in background noise. The proposal was sent for review in a competitive category and was one of the top twenty proposals selected to be featured at the Annual Scientific and Technology Meeting of the American Auditory Society in Scottsdale, Arizona, in early March.

Dr. Clinard’s role in mentoring McClements’ research was indispensable. As her dissertation advisor, Clinard’s work is integral to her success. “He’s very involved in the writing process. He’s patient and always willing to help. I couldn’t ask for a better advisor,” McClements said.

McClements met with Clinard during her second year in the program to inquire about his research on the inverse connection between hearing comprehension and aging. After learning more about his project, she began working with him. “From a student’s perspective, I think it’s very exciting that mine and Dr. Clinard’s research is being recognized on a national scale,” McClements stated. “Sometimes it’s easy to be pigeonholed. It was nice for my research to be validated.”

Clinard introduced McClements to the NIH-sponsored Travel Award to attend the AAS meeting. Having participated in the competition before, he thought McClements would be an excellent applicant. “I encouraged Sarah to present at the American Auditory Society meeting because I thought that she would have a lot of fun presenting her research to the scientific community,” Clinard said. “This particular organization is very supportive of students and student research, and I know she will have a wonderful, positive experience.”

After receiving her Doctor of Audiology degree, McClements hopes to eventually teach and continue to research. “I definitely need to get some clinical experience first, but that’s my ultimate goal,” she explained. “That’s why I chose JMU. The professors help you find out if research is for you.”

McClements hopes her time at the Scientific and Technology Meeting of the AAS in Scottsdale will better prepare her for her eventual career. While there, she will be able to hear comments from other researchers and peers from around the country. “Eventually, Dr. Clinard and I hope to publish this manuscript in a peer-reviewed journal so I look forward to receiving some insightful feedback,” she explained.

Although her career is in its formative stages, McClements seems destined to achieve her goal of teaching and completing research.